Editorial: Be vigilant; scammers abound

May. 22, 2013 @ 08:34 PM

Images break our hearts. For most of us, it is hard to fathom the force with which winds bore down and completely leveled a brick and mortar elementary school in Moore, Okla.

It is a reminder of the destruction possible and that, while some places are recommended as safe and should be used as such, there is no absolute.

There are a number of people and organizations in the Tri-County that will want to help. That’s one of the beauties of this region and who we are — we’re a generous and giving community concerned for not only us, but also those around us. We help as best we can.

We’re happy to share some tips, as we often do, related to taking care of how we help others. The long and short is bad people with bad intentions come around when disasters strike, and the scams are many and varied.

We encourage all to not be discouraged by the dishonest, but rather, be smarter and sure contributions get to those in need. The state attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division will handle complaints through the toll free number (877) 5NO-SCAM, otherwise known as (877) 566-7226, and also online at ncdoj.gov.

While everyone is not scamming, we share some red flag tips from the attorney general’s office.

Be careful of pushy telemarketers. Those not answering questions, or extending pressure conversations, should not be trusted.

Unsolicited emails and text messages should be treated as suspicious, even if appearing real. Websites or logos can be duplicated.

The social network arena is popular. So are names of fake charities linked to a disaster.

Never give cash. It can be lost, stolen and simply not traced. Credit cards work well, and checks should be made out to the charity and not the fundraiser. That said, do not give account information for banks or credit cards to anyone not known.

A good source for checking on charities online is give.org, charitywatch.org, guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org. Worth noting, give.org is aligned with standards of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

And remember, the gift of prayer is powerful.

For those in and associated with tornadoes in Moore, Okla., and other less-profiled locations, our thoughts and prayers are with you.